Extremely premature babies have a much higher risk of cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions than full-term infants, a large Israeli study affirms.
Cerebral palsy -- the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination -- is the most common cause of severe childhood physical disability and motor impairment. It can also affect sensation, perception, thinking, communication and behavior.
"Extremely premature exposure to the environment outside of the uterus may alter musculoskeletal and nervous system development, and shift the trajectory of motor development for otherwise healthy children," study co-author Dr. Eyal Sheiner said in a news release from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel. He is vice dean for academic promotion at the university and is also director of obstetrics and gynecology at Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva.
For this study, Sheiner and his colleagues examined the outcomes of more than 220,500 deliveries over 23 years.
They found that babies born before 25 weeks' gestation had four times the risk of developing long-term neurological issues and significantly higher rates of cerebral palsy.
Each additional week in the womb up to 37 weeks was linked to a decrease in the risk of long-term neurological problems, the researchers said.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
"Neurological disorders that stem from premature births are devastating," said Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of Americans for Ben-Gurion University, which supported the research.
The March of Dimes has more on cerebral palsy.
SOURCE: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, news release, July 29, 2021